The pleasure of horticultural excellence

Not everything has to be cutting edge to be interesting. Sometimes, classic can be just as exciting – particularly if it is done with as much skill and expertise as at the Savill Garden!

This series is about the pleasure of visiting gardens, particularly those of notable design and history. Every article is an account of one of my garden visits, mostly in England but also in Japan and elsewhere. While I take the reader with me around a garden, I share the garden’s history and details of the people who shaped it. My underlying subject is garden design: how it evolved over the centuries and how it reflects wider cultural changes.

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019

Garden design or Why I miss the Chelsea Flower Show

Gardens are spaces where humans interact with plants. Therefore their design should evoke and shape emotions. I expect this to work without the need for explanations. The intended feel of the garden should be immediately and intuitively accessible to the visitor.

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show

The plants lacked classic perfection. They might even have looked weedy had they not been perfectly selected and placed. It looked like each plant was in the exact spot where it had chosen to grow. This was spectacular show garden design with a foundation of quietly sophisticated botanical excellence.

Savill Garden in spring

Fresh green perfection – The Savill Garden in spring

One reason why the Savill Garden appeals to me might be that it is what I thought a garden ought to be when I was growing up in Germany in the 1970s and 80s. Today I know this garden style represents just one school of thought. But I still enjoy it, particularly when executed so well.

In this series of articles I document my own garden: a wonderful nature refuge surrounded by old brick walls in the middle of Düsseldorf, Germany. In addition I try to put into words, where my love of plants started, who influenced it and where I have gardened in the past.

my own garden


My garden had always felt magical, from the moment I first saw it in the company of the estate agent. But on those warm nights in high summer, with the added intrigue of the unexpectedly tall meadow, my garden seemed otherworldly.


Attempting to create diversity

I decided this grass mono-culture was where I would try to make a difference as a gardener. If I managed to diversify the planting in this area, it would create more beauty for my own enjoyment as well as more diverse habitats for wildlife. That would be the perfect balance of my needs and those of the ecosystem that was my garden.

a meadow in the city

How I found my own Garden

In front of me was a meadow, maybe 200 square metres in size, with some ferns at the edges and two fruit trees in the middle. The meadow was surrounded by old brick walls, partly covered with ivy, and beyond them the trees of neighbouring gardens. The sun was shining, the air was full of birdsong, it was a paradise!

In this series I portray people with an interest in plants. Their gardens don’t have to be big or grand. They don’t even have to have a garden in the traditional sense at all. What I am interested in is why people choose to garden and what their different approaches to it are.


Pam and Joanna’s garden

As I get a first look around the corner, I am stunned. Like a wide amphitheatre, a rock garden curves around a patio at the back of the house. A steep slope has been shaped into two massive terraces, their sides held by well placed boulders. This is a plant show of dramatic proportions.


Thomas and his houseplants

“Houseplants are bought for aesthetic reasons, but then plastic flowers could have replaced them long ago,” reflects Thomas, “So there must be some reason why we think a real flower is more positive than a plastic flower.”

Gardens, the big questions of this world and how they are connected

seeds of lockdown

Lockdown seeds

What exactly was happening during lockdown? People had started gardening. They were also rushing into the parks. But why? Was it just boredom?

This series is about plants outside gardens, plants that I stumble upon in everyday life or that I encounter somewhere in the landscape.



There were thousands and thousands of blue flowers covering the entire forest floor. It was like the trees had been put on a deep-blue high pile carpet of vast proportions. We had found a bluebell wood.